Dateline 28th February 2016
 
A fine bright morning at the pristine artificial pitch of Hino Motors set the scene for the second round of the 2016 Cup Winners’ Cup on February 28th.  But if the sun was in the sky, revenge was in the air as a focused Gaijin outfit cleared up any confusion over the Shuto League’s top team following the two clubs’ previous meeting in October’s scrappy draw.
Prior to kick-off the team sheet showed a Gaijin side largely unchanged from the one which had smashed Superman RFC only a week earlier.  However the few changes that were in place only served to strengthen an already robust team: Liam Ramshaw reclaimed the hooker’s jersey while Toshinori Minamidate returned to full-back easing Takuya Ichizono into his familiar wing spot.  Joffa Harris also started at no. 8 with Takashi Tanikawa providing fresh legs later in the game. 
 
As the contest got underway, referee Mr. Osawa appeared to have whistled up a storm with both teams obviously briefed to establish early dominance.  In the opening three minutes alone the Gaijin suffered two turnovers that forced winger Takuya Ichizono to make a try saving tackle before centre Kelepi Burelevu would run from deep giving a scoring pass to put Toshinori Minamidate over for a try and the first flattering points.
 
However as the game went on this pattern would reassert itself; both teams might pile into the arm-wrestle, but, up to half time at least, only the Gaijin would emerge with points: 31 of them to be precise.  At the final whistle a 59-15 victory to the Gaijin would set the seal on a satisfying squad performance and exorcize any Koryo ghosts haunting memories of last year’s Shuto League.
 
So what had changed? Well as mentioned above, the Gaijin fielded a first-choice starting fifteen with power and pace to spare.  Secondly, conditions ideal for badminton let-alone rugby gave no opportunity for a repeat of last year’s Gaijin ‘brain-fade’ against the prevailing weather conditions.  And yet, there was more behind this successful performance.  Match preparations were comprehensive.  The mistakes that all teams make never lead to a loss of confidence, and both captain and vice-captains were uncompromising in the example they set, and the expectations they made.
 
In terms of learning lessons from the game, it could be argued that Dan Benson should have received more ball from the players inside him.  However some usual weak-points were conspicuous by their absence: notably kick off reception was far better, and defence – though far from perfect – was not the usual sore point.  Sovita Tui, Nikola Pavesic, Dan Benson, Toshinori Minamidate and Takuya Ichizono all received specific credit for tackling in the match log.
 
Kelepi Burelevu was voted Gaijin man of the match and made the concise but touching speech “Kon nichi wa – Thank you.”  It only remained for manager Yoshihiro Sato to pull off a sensational jan-ken performance to win first chance in the showers for the lads in his care.  An informal but civilized open air function was then held in the locality of Hino Station bus stop for wine, beers and bento.
 
Score: Note 59-15 is given above in keeping with the external match record.
However the TGRFC log originally recorded 57 points and they were accounted for as follows:
Tries: Toshinori Minamidate 2, Appisai Bati jnr. 2, Takuya Ichizono 1, Kelepi Burelevu 4
Conversions: Appisai Bati jnr. 1/3, Nikola Pavesic 1/1, Takuya Ichizono 3/3, Mojee Rarasea 1/2  
 
Man of the Match: Kelepi Burelevu
 
Starting Team:
  1. Joseph Vanualailai (Fiji)
  2. Liam Ramshaw (England)
  3. Tomohiro Setoguchi (ViceCapt.) (Japan)
  4. Gorka Gerediaga (Basque)
  5. Tsunaki ‘Don’ Tanaka (Japan)
  6. Appisai Bati (Capt.) (Fiji)
  7. Nikola Pavesic (Croatia)
  8. Joffa Harris (Australia)
  9. Kenta Karino (Japan)
  10. Appisai Bati jnr. (Fiji)
  11. Takuya Ichizono (Japan)
  12. Sovita Tui (Fiji)
  13. Kelepi Burelevu (Fiji)
  14. Dan Benson (United States)
  15. Toshinori Minamidate (ViceCapt.) (Japan)
Bench and travelling support (not in particular order but all appreciated):
  • Natsuhiko Kunitomo (Japan), Paul Bertier (France), Dan Barnett (England), Mojee Rarasea (Fiji), Takashi Tanikawa (Japan), Taku Eguchi (South Africa), Romain Resse (France), Akira Yamagen (Japan), Sota Kaneko (Japan), Josko Zunic (Croatia), Joe Nawaqavanua (Fiji)
Manager: Yoshihiro Sato (Japan)